Autumn is my favorite time of the year, though it is both exciting and bittersweet. Bittersweet because we close our old cottage on the island and leave it shuttered and alone 'til spring, but joyful and exciting because we return to our family and the new-old home and gardens where we work from morning 'til nightfall.
Here, in California, my citrus trees, lime, kumquat, meyer lemon, blood orange, navel orange, Kaffir lime, and tangerines are in full scale production, the strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), blazes with yellow, orange and edible red fruits. My guavas, which I started growing in pots 40 years ago, are drooping under their load of fruit, and even some tomato stragglers are still producing. Luckily, the basil, which hasn't suffered any cold, is flourishing and readily picked for meals.
Time to plant borders of cabbages and kale, clusters of rainbow-stemmed chard, and a few dozen spinach, mache, and arugula. I can't stop thinking of Virgil's words from 70 B.C. "And let no spot of idle earth be found, but cultivate the genius of the ground." I'm trying NOT to let an idle spot be found.
"The prospect of feeding a hungry world has to be answered with smaller, not larger farms," said Charles Wilber, (who grew a Guinness world record setting tomato. Just think, if we all grew a bit of our own food. It makes me feel so great to practice my daily ritual of ranging through our small garden to harvest herbs, fruits, my own saffron!, garlic, shallots-I feel a sense of peace and pleasure that far outstrips our tiny plot of well tended land.
We are settling into the rhythm of our new-old kitchen. Abigail (named for my Grandmother Lovejoy), our beloved 1950 O'Keefe and Merritt, is a double-ovened wonder. She is able to roast a big turkey, bake stuffing and sweet potatoes, and host an array of sauce pots and skillets on her commodious top.
The tall green enamel coffee pot atop Abigail once belonged to my Grandmother. I found the pot and a stack of iron frying pans (of every size), a dutch oven, turkey roasting pan, and so much more when I cleaned out my Mother's garage and uncovered a trove of family treasures stowed since 1954. All the iron was in perfect condition though a bit rusty and crusty. I simply rinsed them thoroughly with clear, hot water, scoured them with sea salt and a scrub brush, rubbed them with olive oil and set them inside a warm oven to be re-seasoned. They are better than any modern product, and I imagine they'll someday be passed on to my granddaughter Sara May who so appreciates family traditions and celebrations.
Blessings to all,
Gracie Allen's Recipe for a perfectly cooked roast
Buy a big roast of beef and a small one
Cook them both 'til the little one is burned to a crisp
The big one will be perfect.